For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to shutter across the nation, the movie theater industry is going to court claiming constitutional injury.
On Monday night, AMC, Cinemark and Regal were among the exhibition giants to allege that New Jersey Governor Philip Murphy can’t keep theaters closed any longer.
“By this Complaint, Plaintiffs challenge Defendants’ unconstitutional and unlawful distinctions in allowing certain places of public assembly to reopen, while requiring movie theatres to remain closed,” states a complaint being led by the National Association of Theatre Owners of New Jersey. “COVID-19 represents a serious public health risk, and Plaintiffs support fair and reasonable actions by the government to address that risk. However, the government-mandated total closure of movie theatres is neither fair nor reasonable, and is instead a violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, Equal Protection of the laws, Due Process under the law, and is a Taking of property without just compensation.”
“Defendants have a legal obligation to promulgate orders that treat like entities in a like manner, and not to create arbitrary or irrational distinctions, particularly where First Amendment rights are at stake,” states the complaint. ” Although Defendants have issued orders allowing other public assemblies such as religious services and ceremonies to open, they have withheld approval for movie theatres, which are similarly situated, if not less of a risk, from a public health perspective. Representatives of Plaintiffs met with representatives of Defendants, and the representatives of Plaintiffs shared detailed safety protocols that would be implemented for the reopening of movie theatres in the State that Plaintiffs are ready, willing, and able to implement.”
The theatre industry asks for an order enjoining New Jersey from enforcing orders that treats movie houses any differently than similar businesses. The complaint also seeks a declaration that Governor Murphy’s actions constitute a deprivation of just compensation.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Universal
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